Saturday, August 16, 2014

This Week in Texas Methodist History   August 17 

Paul Quillian Has Heart Attack at First Assembly of World Council of Churches in Amsterdam, 1948

Paul Quillian, a shining star of Texas Methodism, was struck down with illness while attending the first assembly of the World Council of Churches which met in Amsterdam Aug. 22-Sept. 4, 1948.  Quillian was a relatively young man, having been born in Georgia in 1895, but had been pastor of First Methodist Houston since 1936, having come from St. Luke’s Oklahoma City. 

 He had a rapid ascent in the ministerial ranks.  He graduated from Emory at age 18 and became a businessman, eventually working for a bottler in Camden, Arkansas.  His call to the ministry came from a conversation with his pastor (Rev. Marshall Steel’s father).   Rev. Steel told  him “When you die and go to heaven, and God asks you how you spent your life, you’re going to say, ‘I made red soda pop.’ “    That remark changed the course of his life.  He accepted the call to ministry at the age of 28.  

His pastorate at First Methodist Houston was brilliant.  The congregation was used to great preaching—Frank Smith, Clovis Chappell, and Bob Goodrich—all giants of the pulpit had preceded him—and Frank Smith still lived in Houston and wasa constant reminder of his great preaching.  It was natural for many Houstonians to consider Smith their pastor.  Quillian’s  preaching was innovative and one of his great gifts was assembling and maintaining a staff considered the best in the denomination (Walter Jenkins, Jim Jackson, Sr., Johnnie Marie Brooks, Clyde Verhedyen, Howard Grimes, etc.)  It was during Quillian’s pastorate that the Texas Conference quit having annual conference all over the conference and made First Methodist Houston its home for decades.  

His commitment to the local church did not prevent his activities as one of the most global visionaries in the denomination.  In addition to being a member of the General Conferences of 1934, 1938, 1940, 1940, 1944, and 1948, he was a delegate to many ecumenical gatherings, including the 1947 Ecumenical Conference of the Methodist Church in Springfield, Massachusetts.  –His membership in the First Assembly of the World Council of Churches was not a passing interest.  

Quillian survived the heart attack in Amsterdam and returned to pulpit duties at First Methodist Houston, but knowing that his health would prevent the vigorous ministry he was used to, accepted a position as professor of preaching at Perkins School of Theology, SMU that would begin Jan. 1. 1950.  

He did not live long enough to assume that academic position.  On March 28, 1949, he collapsed and died at the age of 53.  His legacy continued at First Methodist Houston where a youth facility was named in his honor and through the work of his daughter, Thelma, who married Robert E. Goodrich, Jr. (elected bishop in 1972.)


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